Denver Police say they’re increasing patrols around the 16th St. Mall after a string of assaults, mostly from aggressive panhandlers.
Denver Police Chief Robert White said they’re noticing many transients coming from out of town and into the city panhandling around the mall, which is legal.
He says the problem arises after they become aggressive and assault people in the area.
“The panhandling has gotten to the point where it becomes a violation when you put your hands on someone,” said Chief White. "When you start using profanity, that's intimidating and there’s a whole bunch of other things that go beyond the wall of panhandling. So it’s not the panhandling that’s the problem, it’s when they take it to the level where it’s a crime."
While on assignment, a Denver7 crew stumbled upon a confrontation between two men and police officers at the outdoor mall area.
One of the men began yelling obscenities at police before a bystander got in and began telling him to go away.
Police were able to handle the situation without having to make any arrests, but said they’re dealing with more and more aggressive behavior like that every day.
Since January, police have made 522 arrests in the area, down by 40 compared to last year.
However, because of the increased aggression, police will increase their presence at the mall and are working with the Downtown Denver Partnership to help make the area feel safer to walk around.
“It’s like a tale of two cities,” said Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, “at certain hours or certain times and certain spaces we occasionally have very significant issue.”
The Partnership has been working on a security action plan for months now after hiring a consulting firm to help provide suggestions.
They’ve already begun installing lights around alleys at the mall where people might walk late at night and plan to hire additional private security.
“We’re looking at a combination of the off duty officers that we already pay for coupling that with ‘How do we look at private security as an option?’,” said Door, “Bringing on a security manager that works for us in the private sector that helps really coordinate private security at various building and really connect with the public sector.”
For now Denver police have begun heavily patrolling the area and will unveil a more detailed security plan for the area next week.